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Dairy Cottage actually is an annex to the Castlerosse Hotel, which is owned and operated by the mistress of the Kenmare Estate, Mrs. Beatrice Grosvenor, who was, during World War II, staff officer to Lady Mountbatten. In the prime summer season the rate for a double room (with bath and breakfast) at Dairy Cottage is $12. The general, of course, had all six beds and five baths for himself, and though Mrs. Grosvenor continued collecting a shilling from each tourist desiring to see her estate, the general was not part of the exhibit.
Some visitors to the estate did report seeing him walking the mud lanes to the fabled lakes and cutting across the Kenmare pastures filled with herds of prize Herefords and black-faced sheep. The setting is a worthy one. In the early mornings—often in a soft rain—red and sika deer move through the barley fields. The loughs are filled with salmon and above the lakes in the uplands woodcock and snipe flush from the bracken.
In 1588 Queen Elizabeth gave Sir Valentine Browne, from whom Mrs. Grosvenor is descended, "the Lakes of Killarney, the water and fish therein contained and the bottom thereof." She also threw in 6,560 acres plus a few mountains so that he would have some place to dock his canoe. The land has been passed down through the Castlerosse and Kenmare families, which have included a number of eccentrics. A Lady Kenmare who flourished around the turn of the century had strong ideas about scenery. She ordered her tenants (her rent roll was $400,000 a year) to paint their cottages with tar so that the countryside would not be disfigured with walls of whitewashed stone. She permitted only one exception. The local Loretto convent was allowed to paint its gates khaki.
The most famous member of the family, however, was Mrs. Grosvenor's uncle, the Sixth Earl of Castlerosse, who distinguished himself by writing a gossip column for Lord Beaverbrook's papers in the 1930s. A rotund man of some 280 pounds, he once was assigned to do an inside story on a nudist club. He arrived, introduced himself, was led into an anteroom and, left alone, disrobed. He then stepped through another door into what he assumed was the nudist club itself, only to find himself in the middle of a large (and fully clothed) bridge tournament. He was at the wrong address. When he died in 1943, his title passed to his younger brother. (The colorful lord handed down other things elsewhere. For example, to the Convent of the Presentation in Killarney went his monogrammed silk shirts and pajamas. Some years later the mother superior there was asked if the apparel was ever received. "Of course," she replied. "The good Lord Castlerosse always remembered us. We were most grateful for the gifts of his shirts and silks, and we are still wearing them. And his slippers, too. His feet were very small." From beneath her robe the nun thrust out a dainty foot. On it was a black silk slipper embossed with a scarlet "C.")
When the Seventh Earl died not long after his brother, the title became extinct and the estate, which their niece, Mrs. Grosvenor, inherited, was threatened with death duties. Americans bought 3,500 acres of Killarney from her, though the song had long been sung,
How can you buy all the stars in the skies?
But still the pinch is there, which is why de Gaulle's visit to Kenmare had an importance he could not suspect. With the shilling-a-day tours of what is left of the Kenmare holdings and her Castlerosse Hotel, Mrs. Grosvenor has a sizable stake in the tourist development of Killarney. Being hostess to the general hardly hurt her business. She notes that this summer she has added a French-speaking member to the staff at the Castlerosse.
And without doubt the French are on their way. "At last they are able to identify us," an Irish Tourist Board official says. "They are such a provincial race. Before, they would confuse Ireland with Iceland and Holland." Aer Lingus ads in Paris now exhort Frenchmen to "Follow the Guide" (the Guide was one of de Gaulle's nicknames). The Irish information center declares that holiday bookings by French tourists have more than doubled. "I only hope we get better-type Frenchmen than we have in the past," a tourist board man said. "They've been tightfisted and complaining. Our slogan used to be ' Ireland is a place for special people,' which really meant the Frenchman with not too much money. This is the group we sought to attract."
Well, they got de Gaulle. And who is paying his bill no one is saying. French newspapers reported that the government sent an emissary to The Heron Cove to make sure it was not being charged. The Irish Tourist Board says it was not paying the bills. There was reason to think de Gaulle was not stuck with the tabs himself. Who'll pay?
On June 15 Georges Jean Raymond Pompidou was elected president of France, and three days later Charles de Gaulle gathered his small retinue behind him and ended his vacation. There was a brief visit of state in Dublin, and then the year's most famous tourist returned to France. Behind him, notes the Irish Tourist Board, are the people who will eagerly pay any bills at all that might have been left behind—the British and the Americans, coming by the thousands to see for themselves how things are in Killybegs, Kilkerry and Kildare. Some of them may even, just by chance of course, stop at The Heron Cove. The general's bathroom is top of the stairs, second door on the right.